Four simple dietary changes you can make to keep your ticker healthy
1. Control the size of your portions
How much you eat is just as important as what you eat.
Overloading your plate, taking seconds and eating until you feel stuffed can lead to eating more calories than you should. Portions served in restaurants are often more than anyone needs.
Use a small plate or bowl to help control your portions. Eat larger portions of low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and smaller portions of high-calorie, high-sodium foods, such as refined, processed or fast foods. This strategy can shape up your diet as well as your heart and waistline.
Keep track of the number of servings you eat. A serving size is a specific amount of food, defined by common measurements such as cups, ounces or pieces. For example, one serving of pasta is 1/2 cup, or about the size of a hockey puck. A serving of meat, fish or chicken is about 2 to 3 ounces, or about the size and thickness of a deck of cards.
Judging serving size is a learned skill. You may need to use measuring cups and spoons or a scale until you're comfortable with your judgment.
2. Eat more vegetables and fruits
Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals. Vegetables and fruits are also low in calories and rich in dietary fibre. They also contain substances found in plants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Eating more fruits and vegetables may help you eat less high-fat
foods, such as meat, cheese and snack foods.
Featuring vegetables and fruits in your diet is easy. Keep vegetables washed and cut in your refrigerator for quick snacks. Keep fruit in a bowl in your kitchen so that you'll remember to eat it. Choose recipes that have vegetables or fruits as the main ingredients, such as vegetable stir-fry or fresh fruit mixed into salads.
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3. Select whole grains
Whole grains are good sources of fibre and other nutrients
that play a role in regulating blood pressure
and heart health. You can increase the amount of whole grains in a heart-healthy diet
by making simple substitutions for refined grain products. Or be adventuresome and try a new whole grain, such as whole-grain faro, quinoa or barley.
4. Limit unhealthy fats
Limiting how much saturated and trans-fats you eat is an important step to reduce your bloodcholesterol
and lower your risk of coronary artery disease. A high blood cholesterol
level can lead to a build-up of plaques in your arteries, called atherosclerosis, which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
The American Heart Association offers these guidelines for how much fat
to include in a heart-healthy diet
The best way to reduce saturated and trans fats in your diet is to limit the amount of solid fats — butter, margarine and shortening — you add to food when cooking and serving. You can also reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet by trimming fat off your meat or choosing lean meats with less than 10% fat.
You can also use low-fat substitutions when possible for a heart-healthy diet. For example, top your baked potato with low-sodium salsa or low-fat yogurt rather than butter, or use sliced whole fruit or low-sugar fruit spread on your toast instead of margarine.
You may also want to check the food labels of some cookies, crackers and chips. Many of these snacks — even those labelled “reduced fat” — are made with oils containing trans-fats. One clue that a food has some trans-fat in it is the phrase “partially hydrogenated” in the ingredient list.
When you do use fats, choose monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil or canola oil. Polyunsaturated fats, found in certain fish, avocados, nuts and seeds, also are good choices for a heart-healthy diet. When used in place of saturated fat, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may help lower your total blood cholesterol. But moderation is essential. All types of fat are high in calories!
An easy way to add healthy fat (and fibre) to your diet is ground flaxseed. Flaxseeds are small brown seeds that are high in fibre and omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have found that flaxseeds may help lower cholesterol in some people. You can grind the seeds in a coffee grinder or food processor and stir a teaspoon of them into yogurt, applesauce or hot cereal.
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